NEW YORK -- There's only one thing I see wrong about the celebration of Fourth of July, and that's the national shedding of tears about a husky named Lou Gehrig, which will be climaxed with a "Lou Gehrig appreciation day" during the doubleheader between the Yanks and Washington at Yankee stadium.
The playwrights for this Gehrig business at the stadium are making the affair so touching, I understand, that even the little boys and gals of our vast land will be unable to set off firecrackers and things because of the tears that trickle down upon their matches and punks.
The whole business seems goofy and uncalled for to me. I see no reason for pulling a pall over a holiday when everyone should be having lot of fun and peanuts, popcorn, crackerjack and hotdogs. Particularly I see no reason for pulling this Yankee publicity stunt about Gehrig, who is the last man in the world who would go for it unless the Yankee brass hats and New York baseball writers snaffled him and forced him into it.
Gehrig knows -- and so should everyone else connected with baseball -- that the 36-year-old first baseman of the Yanks was through with top-flight play, just as soon as he showed up at the Yanks' training camp at St. Pete. But because Lou was the iron horse, the man who had written into the records that all-time mark of 2,130 consecutive championship games, his fade-out had to be different from that of the ordinary player.
Accordingly Gehrig was sent to a nationally known center of health Investigation, to see what was wrong with him. I'll guarantee that if 90 per cent of the men, women and children in America were sent to that particular spot, we would learn that each and all had something wrong with them -- even if it were only halitosis, athlete's foot, warts or B.O.
I've forgotten exactly what they said was wrong with Gehrig. Oh, yes! I do recall that the first hospital report indicated infantile paralysis of a very vague breed. But later the experts explained it wasn't infantile paralysis at al. It was something else. The ailment had one of those high-falutin' names that only people with plenty of dough or prestige can have.
Personally, I don't care what Gehrig has got. But I'd like to exchange my body for his during the next 40 or 50 years, let us say. And I'm pretty sure I'd do all right regardless of the experts' argument over the Latin or Greek declensions of what Laruping Lou may or may not have.
It seems to me that Gehrig was merely getting too old to play hell-for-leather baseball and that the scientists of ailments or advertising gave him a graceful exit.
But what really brings water to my eyes on this particular Fourth of July is the plight of Monty Stratton, a lad who was right in his prime -- only 25 years old -- a lad who never had the chance to amass the fortune that must be Gehrig's.
Gehrig -- too old for championship baseball -- will be out there tomorrow with his mysterious ailment able to get about as actively as anyone of his piano-legged build should at 36. But poor Monte Stratton is hobbling about the coaches' box of the Chicago White Sox with an artificial leg clinking about where his own right leg should be.
There is no question about what happened to Stratton. He shot himself himself in the leg accidentally while hunting down Texas way last Novermber. And the right leg had to be amputated at the knee. At the time this accident happened, Stratton stood out as one of the best right-handed flingers in the American league. They gave him a "Stratton Day" in Chicago this season, and he got about twenty grand out of it about the same as his salary for a year.
Gehrig has been named non-playing captain for the All-Star inter-league game at Yankee stadium a week from Tuesday along with tomorrow's "Gehrig Day." But it seems to me that poor Monte Stratton, could have been appointed batting practice pitcher at least for the All-Star game. And if we've got to shed tears tomorrow for some afflicted ball player, let's give them off for poor Monte, instead of for Lucky Lou.